Beauty Redefined Blog

Mind the (Thigh) Gap

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Ever heard the phrase “Mind the gap?” It’s a warning to train passengers to take caution while crossing the gap between the train door and the station platform that began in London. Today, it’s time to use that phrase as a warning of a different kind of life-or-death danger – the obsession with “thigh gaps” taking place on social media and beyond. Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter are flooded with thigh gaps, which are basically pictures of thin legs from the front or back with space in between them. The thigh gap qualifying “rule” is for the gap to be visible when the person’s feet are together. Millions are following this trend online and resorting to unhealthy extremes to get a gap of their own – a trendy status symbol of beauty.

We believe this trend is SO pervasive because it is so largely unattainable. It pops up where you’d least expect it – on conservative blogs or Instagram feeds of young moms wearing skinny jeans “just showing off their cute new sandals!” And it pops up where you’d always expect it – the Twitter feeds of supermodels with profiles dedicated to their thigh gaps (and no, we will not link to them and give them unnecessary attention).

We are asking you to MIND THE (THIGH) GAP.  The next time you see thin thighs and the space between them being celebrated online — whether blatantly or subtly — mind the gap!  Use it as a warning that what you’re seeing is the latest symbol of oppression and objectification for girls and women – not a symbol of feminine success, health and beauty. Sounds a bit extreme? We don’t think so. Here are four reasons it’s time to mind the gap:

1. Significant thigh gaps in real life are brought to us by certain genetics, ethnicities, pelvic sizes and widths, and most girls and women do not have a natural gap, according to a director at the Children’s National Medical Center in D.C. If you or someone you know has a thigh gap, cool! That’s great. We’re not calling anyone out for resorting to unhealthy extremes to get one; we are simply pointing out the reality that thigh gaps are not NEARLY as common in real life as media would have us believe. These days, websites are dedicated to explaining how to get a gap between your legs when your feet are together and too many of them emphasize that you must avoid exercises like calf raises, squats, lunges, stairs, or anything else that might build muscle. Really?! No.

Victoria’s Secret is famous for digitally enhancing a “thigh gap” on their models.

2. Thanks to the wonders of an easy tool on Photoshop, thigh gaps are made and widened with one click. If a media maker has any sort of photo editing software, she or he can make a thigh gap appear instantly. Victoria’s Secret is especially proficient at using it constantly! One of the easiest ways to detect this Photoshop trend is to check out the background behind the model. If the area behind her thigh gap is blurred or looks different than the area on the other sides of her legs, it’s a good way to spot a Photoshop hack job thigh gap.

3. The perfect way to objectify a woman is to literally or figuratively view her as a compilation of body parts to be looked at, judged, and fixed. If you see an image of a woman without her face visible or with her head cut off, she is being objectified. It happens to women in media EVERY SECOND. You can’t pass a billboard without seeing a headless woman selling plastic surgery or flip through a magazine without a set of breasts selling anything unrelated to breasts. Millions of thigh gap pictures are floating around online to serve as inspiration for girls and women fixated on the gap and willing to resort to any extreme to get there (plastic surgery, eating disorders, exercise obsession, etc.). SO many of these thigh gap pictures feature only part of a woman, which effectively renders her less than human. Most of them feature naked or nearly naked women. What a great way to keep a girl in her place as a sexual object to be looked at. Instead of moving on to progress and be happy in any way that matters – instead of looking outside ourselves for one moment – girls and women are learning to obsess about their parts and self-objectify to a degree never before seen.

Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s scepter [power], the mind shapes itself to the body and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison” (Wollstonecraft, 1792).

target thigh gap beauty redefined4. New beauty ideals are being sold to us at every possible turn. Media makers and industry leaders are coming up with new “flaws” we need to feel ashamed of so we’ll shell out our hard earned money, compromise our health, and stay in the prisons of our own bodies instead of living, being, and doing. From our heads to our toes, we’ve got so much to worry about! Hair color, complexion, eyelash length, eyebrow shape, nose shape, lip fullness, skin color (too dark OR too pale), skin softness, skin firmness, armpit smoothness, body hair, breast size, amount of cellulite, body shape, weight, and our toenails. “Women’s work” is beauty labor, and it keeps us from the happiness and fulfillment of doing ANYTHING ELSE. Can you imagine the progress girls and women could make in every possible field if we could learn to rebel against industries that are established to prey on our insecurities? Scholars assert that beginning with puberty and continuing across the life course, girls are twice as likely to experience depression as boys and men. For girls but not boys, self-esteem plummets at puberty and is directly associated with body dissatisfaction, which negatively affects their performance in mental and physical activities, including mathematics, logical reasoning, spatial skills, athletic performance, and sexual assertiveness.* Next time you see a thigh gap being celebrated online, mind the gap as a symbol of oppression that is keeping girls and women inside the prison of adorning their bodies. You can work on taking back beauty that rightfully belongs to you by refusing to buy the lies these industries are selling. 

So if you have “thick thighs” or any meat on your thighs at all, it’s time to stop vilifying them! It’s time to stop hiding them by sitting in that precisely flattering way or only wearing baggy clothes or refusing to swim or hike or play in case someone sees them in all their regular-womanly-thigh glory. Can you imagine the inexpressible joy girls and women across the world would feel if we could just have ONE DAY to not worry about the way our thighs LOOK and instead focus on how awesome our thighs are, seeing as how they help us to LIVE and DO and BE and PLAY and WORK? What if we took the time to appreciate having the use of our thighs, regardless of what they look like, and consider what a gift they are? Many people don’t even get to enjoy fully functioning thighs. I don’t know about you, but I’m dedicated to doing my best to appreciate them and OWN that gift every day with the help of my thighs that absolutely, positively touch each other when my feet are together, and always will forever, thank you very much.

Click here to slap these sticky notes everywhere!

Click here to slap these sticky notes everywhere!

Friends, social media is where activism takes place. Do you realize your power in this world to DO and BE and SPEAK? You are where you are right now on purpose, and you’ve got some cool work to do that no one else can do.  You’ve got more power and influence than you know to make a difference in a world that needs you – not just a vision of you, not just you with a thigh gap – but ALL of you.  And you’ve got an opportunity to take media into your own hands – to use it for good, to share positive truths with your circles, to choose what you will and won’t watch/read and help others do the same. A good place to start is on our Facebook page. Just like Naomi Wolf says in her awesome book The Beauty Myth, “While we cannot directly affect the images [in media], we can drain them of their power. We can turn away from them and look directly at one another. We can lift ourselves and other women out of the myth.”

We take a bottom-up approach to the epidemic of body hatred and looks obsession plaguing girls and women today.  We are all about rethinking the ideas of “beautiful” and “healthy” that we’ve likely learned from for-profit media that thrives off female insecurity. Girls and women who feel OK about their bodies — meaning they aren’t “disgusted” with them like more than half of women today – take better care of themselves. With obesity and eating disorders both at epidemic levels, this point is crucial! Lindsay and I continuously promote the idea that all women are worthwhile AND beautiful while fighting against the harmful ideals we’re sold at every turn. So, whether you’ve got a thigh gap or not, it’s time to MIND THE GAP and then turn our time, attention and energy to much better things. Each time you see a thigh gap being unhealthily celebrated in media, choose to heed that warning symbol – a symbol of oppression that serves to keep us “in our place” as objects to be looked at. Next time you see a blatant celebration of the thigh gap, mind the gap in these easy ways:

  • Take the opportunity to share our website or this post with whoever posted the photo or commented about striving for that ideal.
  • If the photo you saw triggered a feeling of shame or inadequacy about your own body, go for a walk or play a sport or dance with your mom, sister, friends or mirror to remind yourself what a gift your body is.
  • If you frequent a Tumblr, Facebook page, or Instagram account that features thinspiration like thigh gap images, whether intentionally focusing on thigh thinness or just subtly highlighting it in the name of “fashion,” turn away. Unsubscribe. Unfollow. Block them so you don’t go back.
  • If you shop at stores that glorify the thigh gap and perpetuate it as a beauty ideal, speak up with your pocketbook and stop shopping there. Hit them where it counts!
  • Now give a girl or woman in your life a hug and tell them why they are so amazing. I have a feeling it’s about way more than whether or not she has space between her thighs.

*Fredrickson et al. 1998; Fredrickson & Harrison, 2004; Gapinski, Brownell, & LaFrance, 2003; Harter, 1993; Hebl, King, & Lin, 2004; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990; Simmons, Rosenberg, & Rosenberg, 1973; Steinberg, 1999; Steingraber, 2007

**Patricia van den Berg & Dianne Neumark-Sztainer. (2007). Journal of Adolescent Health.

 

  1. Kari
    Kari06-04-2013

    Go girl(s).

  2. Lisa
    Lisa06-04-2013

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for taking this on. I bought into the thigh gap analysis hook, line and sinker for a very long time. To me, I wouldn’t be “fat” anymore if my thighs didn’t touch – it became a kind of weird barometer. What I didn’t know is that even when I got to my “goal weight,” and my thighs didn’t touch, I wasn’t happier. There wasn’t any life-altering change that had taken place. If anything, I felt like I needed to keep losing weight (despite people in my life that I loved and trusted, like my mom and my grandma telling me that I was looking too thin).

    After going to therapy for my body image issues I still have my bad days and difficulties, but I am slowly starting to let it go (and this blog has helped me a lot). Whenever I start even thinking about the whole thigh gap thing, I try to remind myself, you know, hey, you just ran a half marathon 2 days ago… your legs are so much more than the space between them!

    Keep up the good work… I hope you know the good it is doing for people like me. You help me put these things into perspective daily.

  3. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth06-05-2013

    It’s not just pictures, it’s also clothes. I could not find any slacks for my little daughter that fit through the thighs without being way too long. Since I was not going to put a healthy, muscular child in plus sizes, she wore skirts or capris. When she was 11, she decided she wanted cargo pants. I eventually went to the boys section, where I found some that fit perfectly. Keep in mind, at that age girls and boys still have pretty much the same shape. The more I think about this, the angrier I get. Young girls should not be getting the message that they have to be ultra-skinny in order to be feminine.

    • Lilly
      Lilly06-05-2013

      @Elisabeth, I feel your pain. My oldest daughter is very muscular due to competition gymnastics. It is extremely hard to find pants that fit her correctly & forget about finding shorts that are school dress code approved.

  4. Jeanette
    Jeanette06-05-2013

    I “unfollowed” any Pinterest fitness “inspiration” boards long ago. I was surprised at how many women I know regularly posted photos to their “fitness” boards that looked practically like porn! Great article… as always.

  5. Katy Hearne
    Katy Hearne06-05-2013

    1) Thank you for reading & commenting on my blog last night (Awkward Burpees). I think what y’all are doing & what you stand for is amazing. If you’re ever working on any projects in Austin- I want in!

    2) I think we were writing about thigh gaps at the same time last night! It brought up a memory of when I was in middle school P.E. our teacher telling us that when we put our legs together, if there was no space at all, you needed to lose weight. Middle school. I have never been a naturally thin person & even though I am an extremely active adult- my legs touch at all points above the knee when my feet are together. Also, I can leg press way more than my body weight.

    Anyway- I’m digressing. What I’m trying to say is that at that age you think teachers are infinite pools of wisdom that know everything because how else could they possibly be in the position they are in? I so badly wish I could go back in time & tell 12 year old Katy that Miss LeBlanc had NO idea what she was talking about & that she was a failed dance major with her own body images & not to go home & cry over it.

  6. Gerry Dorrian
    Gerry Dorrian06-06-2013

    I remember beauty insider Gok Wan doing a series on the sinister side of beauty on British TV; he was looking at an anorexic girl’s pictures of herself, including her with her legs crossed, featuring a thigh gap. He pointed out to her that it’s anatomically impossible for anybody to cross their legs and have a thigh gap. Thankfully, by the end of the programme she’d taken Photoshop off her computer. Perhaps encouraging vulnerable girls to do the same might lead to Adobe raising its game?

  7. Eliza
    Eliza06-08-2013

    I always wondered if this was becoming a dangerous trend — most of women’s clothing we find on Pinterest or other form of media are modeled by frighteningly thin girls with a “thigh gap.” What’s funny is that as a child my mother would always tell me that having a gap between the thighs is unattractive — she grew up in the 50s/60s, and I guess “trends” have really changed!

  8. Jessica
    Jessica06-08-2013

    Thank you for posting this! My god I can’t believe this is still a thing…. I just wish women were encouraged to be healthy rather than “thin”, that women were encouraged to do and enjoy life rather than just exist and be pretty. And that clothes were made to actually fit womens bodies correctly. I have perfectly proportional thighs, still cant find pants that fit comfortably…. *sigh*

  9. Kenzi
    Kenzi06-09-2013

    Awesome post. Thank you so much for what you are doing. You help more people than you think. Keep it up!

  10. Ella
    Ella06-19-2013

    This is incredibly empowering.
    Beyonce does NOT have a thigh gap and she is beautiful!

    • Judy L
      Judy L02-26-2014

      Yes, and she is even more beautiful with her natural skin and hair tones – not photoshopped to look more “white.”

  11. Kari L
    Kari L06-23-2013

    I’ll never forget my grandma saying “Never trust a woman whose thighs don’t touch”. I was only 11 and my thighs didn’t touch and I thought she was talking about me. My thighs still don’t touch, even though I’m a bit on the robust side these days. It’s just my body type. Grandma was wrong (gasp!) and so are these crazy thigh gap people.

  12. jackie
    jackie06-27-2013

    Believe it or not, like all these fashion trends, this one isn’t new. My mother in law used to say that if your thighs touched when you walked, then you were obese. She was in her 70′s (and this was 10 years ago. Being a 12 (US) I guess I was a huge disappointment to her when I was brought home. My thighs are good friends. Mind you, I always thought she had an eating disorder. She never allowed herself to get more than 7 stone in weight and had heart problems. Go figure.

  13. Holly Waterfall
    Holly Waterfall07-12-2013

    ahhh, you ladies are aMAZing! I have battled with my thighs for years. probably 15 years! Realizing that my thighs touched was when my eating disorder really started to spiral out of control. If only I could find a way to get the thigh gap, then I’d be beautiful. Even at 104 lbs, there was no thigh gap. I never got it. My body just isn’t made that way. I will never have the thigh gap, and I just have to be okay with that. Because what I have inSTEAD of that thigh gap is SO much more! Thank you for being so brilliant!

  14. Ruth
    Ruth08-22-2013

    So true! I am so distressed by my husband obvious staring at anything female over the age of about 12 that I refuse to,go,to,the beach or stay.in the same room as him when cheap sex appears on fhe tv. Sick of fights I have discovered the idae’what do I want to look like, what do I want to wear ? Then I pretend he won’t be where I am going and I feel great about me. Being the healthiest I can be gives me the best beauty I can have. I like me, amd wear things I love, like lace, crocheted items and cool cotton. Ahhhh :)

    • Sarah
      Sarah05-31-2014

      Wow I am never getting married. Yours and Melvis’ comments have really opened my eyes.

  15. Connie
    Connie10-15-2013

    Thank you! Whether or not a woman has “thigh gap,” it really has nothing to do with her beauty, her intelligence, her ability or anything else for that matter. There was a brief time in my life in which I thought thigh gap was a standard of beauty, but I have since changed my mind. I have narrow hips. I have thick muscle thighs. There is no thigh gap. I am fine with that, because I love how they are, they are perfectly suited to me. I love that they’re strong and limber and they’ve taken me on so many adventures. Thank you for posting this, this definitely needs to be shared.

  16. Amanda
    Amanda10-15-2013

    So, I’m a cyclist. Being someone who uses their legs to get up steep hills, I have quadzilla thighs and sometimes its hard to find jeans that fit my thighs AND waist. BUT, I’d never trade that strength and muscle for some weak small ideal that some male fashion executive decided was going to be this fall’s pant style.
    Find something that helps you be active and healthy and don’t let anyone tell you how you’re supposed to look. I weigh 200lbs and race triathlons, more importantly, I know I can swim and bike circles around any of those fashion models. Never avoid doing an exercise so as to not build muscle, muscle is what burns fat, you should be looking for ways to build muscle, and no matter your shape, size, weight, you’ll be happy with the outcome of having muscle.

  17. Melvis
    Melvis10-15-2013

    I had never heard of this before my boyfriend came home about a month ago, and ever so subtly “mentions” that he heard somewhere that a woman should be able to hold her feet together and thighs not touch. I cracked up laughing at him, as I understand his subtle hints are meant to get me to question why he’s saying these things to me. Never mind the fact that his thighs are BIGGER than mine! Yes, he is built more like an apple bottom, a female form, than a male form. He obsesses about his weight, and as soon as he sees me losing weight or getting into shape, all of sudden, he’s losing weight or acting like “he just can’t eat”.
    My point to all this is that, there will always be something the media is trying to push for women to obtain to, which is unrealistic. This whole “thigh” gap thing is utterly ridiculous.
    IMO, the worst offender right now is the ludicrous HUGE bottom and 28 inch waist, and HUGE breasts. {Kim K, Beyonce, J Lo, etc.} Talk about completely unrealistic, and totally unhealthy. Anyone ever point out that those buttocks are very hard on your joints, that’s alot of weight to carry on a small frame…then the waist line, having ribs removed, etc etc.
    And then, finally, the men our lives shoving this crap in our faces, with these “oh did I say that” attitudes attempting to poison our self esteem. Enough is enough. So glad I live in state where flannel and jeans is most acceptable and fashion isn’t at all even remotely a big deal. Thank god……but we need to stop allowing those people in our lives that supposedly love us, to use subtle mind games to infect our views of ourselves. Time to move on I think….:}

  18. sheng
    sheng03-11-2014

    I have a thigh gap because I am thin,and honestly,I’ve always hated it… I always wanted to gain weight to have fuller body (and until now…I am still struggling with gaining weight).. all I see are tips and programs on how to lose weight and only few on gaining. It seems that my reason for striving in gaining weight is that for people to acknowledge my capacity to do work. I am 26 and still looks like a teen,until now, I am striving to stand out amidst what the people and society wants me to look like. . I cannot understand why people want a thigh gap,while I wanted mine filled. and obviously, I am always torn by the thought of loving what I have and attaining what i want.

    #confused

  19. Renita
    Renita03-12-2014

    I came to this conclusion a LONG time ago when I noticed that my male friends would work and save their money, while my female friends would spend their entire paycheck on hair, makeup, waxing, tanning, diet plans so that they would look good enough to keep their job. Customer service is just one line of work that allows men to just work, and demands that women “look the part” for the job.

  20. Renita
    Renita03-12-2014

    Things might change if women told men to accept us as we are, or start dating each other.

  21. Andrea
    Andrea03-13-2014

    Unfortunately I, too, fell for the idea that thighs should not touch. I was thin already… About 115 pounds at 5’7″. I ended up obsessing over it, lost about 20 more pounds, ended up in the hospital and guess what?? My thighs STILL touched! That was 20 years ago and fortunately I’ve learned a lot since then, but I’m sad to know that much of the world still believes in these ridiculous myths!

  22. veronica
    veronica05-07-2014

    I had a thigh gap as a pre-teen & was completely mortified by it, I wanted thicker, shapelier thighs & was so happy when my thighs finally did meet as I got a little older & I still prefer straight lines on my figure, curves are sexy straight lines are not.

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